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Best Winter Boots for Women of 2021

We tested women's winter boots from Muck, UGG, Merrell, Sorel, and more to find the best and toastiest options
When hiking up and down trails, the sole did not have enough grip to k...
Photo: Liz Chamberlain
Monday December 6, 2021
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Our winter warriors have tested more than 44 of the best winter boot for women over the last 8 years. This 2021 update features 13 of the market's top choices, each tested rigorously and completely across a variety of terrain and snow conditions. From Canada to the USA, our boots have seen the likes of blowing snowstorms, icy walkways, wet spring afternoons, and muddy pre-season puddles. Our experts wear these boots throughout each winter, both when the temperatures are fair and when they plummet. After years of testing and comparing performance, we offer our insights and recommendations to help you find the best boot for your needs.

Top 13 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 13
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Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $190 List
$199.95 at Amazon
$250 List
$249.95 at Amazon
Check Price at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
Check Price at REI
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$178.90 at Amazon
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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83
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78
77
Star Rating
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Pros Full coverage protection, highly durable, reliable tractionCozy wool lining, very warm, highly waterproof, versatile constructionGood value, ultra warm, great traction, highly waterproofWarm, great weather protection, removable linerProtective, durable, very warm, breathable, excellent traction, high value
Cons Pricey, very heavy, retains moisture, difficult to drive inExpensive, slightly bulkyOnly ankle-high coverage, hiking-specific style, narrow fitClunky fit, very heavy, not very stylishLess stylish, somewhat heavy, stiff collar
Bottom Line This highly durable boot is completely waterproof and great at insulating, though it's a bit too bulky to wear on low-snow days or during high-output activitiesThis boot is the epitome of comfort and warmth wrapped in a versatile, high-performing, waterproof packageThis well-priced boot hits all the marks with a winter-friendly design that maintains great traction, weatherproofing, and warmthA warm, bulky, and durable boot built for a lifetime of Alaska-grade winters but that isn't light or comfortable enough for extended use or mobile activitiesGreat for winter hiking on slippery trails thanks to incredible traction, support, and weatherproofing
Rating Categories Muck Boot Arctic Ic... UGG Adirondack III Merrell Thermo Chil... Sorel Caribou - Wom... Keen Revel IV Polar...
Warmth (25%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
Weather Protection (25%)
9.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
Comfort And Fit (20%)
7.0
9.0
9.0
5.0
7.0
Durability (15%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Traction (15%)
9.0
7.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
Specs Muck Boot Arctic Ic... UGG Adirondack III Merrell Thermo Chil... Sorel Caribou - Wom... Keen Revel IV Polar...
Maximum Puddle Depth Before Major Leaking 16" 9" 6" 10" 7"
Measured Shaft Height (from bottom of sole to top of shaft) 16" 8" rolled / 10" extended 6" 10.5" 7"
Measured Weight (per pair, size 7) 4.59 lbs 2.36 lbs 1.79 lbs 3.78 lbs 2.41 lbs
Type of Boot Winter workwear All-around winter Winter hiking All-around winter Winter hiking
Fit Details Runs big True to size True to size Runs big True to size, wide
Lining/Insulation Fleece UGGpure wool M Select Warm (200g) 9mm recycled felt liner 200 grams KEEN.WARM Recycled PET
Removable Liner? No No No Yes No
Footbed bioDEWIX EVA Kinetic Fit BASE N/A EVA
Upper Material Rubber Waterproof suede and leather Waterproof PU-coated leather and mesh Waterproof nubuck leather Mesh and Leather
Toe Box Rubber Rubber Rubber Rubber Leather
Outsole Vibram Arctic Grip A.T. Molded White Spider Rubber M Select GRIP Aero-trac rubber KEEN.Polar Traction
Company Claimed Cold Weather Rating Not stated -32°C/-25°F Not stated Not stated -32°C/-25°F
Temp Change in Ice Bath -9.5 F -7.2 F -5.2 F -6.9 F -3.8 F
Animal Products? No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sizes Available 5 - 11 5 - 12 5 - 11 5 - 12 5 - 12


Best Overall Winter Boot for Women


UGG Adirondack III


83
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 9
  • Weather Protection 8
  • Comfort and Fit 9
  • Durability 8
  • Traction 7
Shaft Height: 10" (8" when rolled down) | Insulation: 100% UGGPure Wool
Snug, cozy fit
Great weather protection
Warm wool interior
Versatile functionality
Shaft may be too flexible for some
Expensive

The UGG Adirondack III topped the list, yet again, as our favorite winter boot, thanks to its warmth, style, and technical performance. The outsole supplies serious traction with simplistic lugs, enabling both in-town functionality and on-trail superiority. The leather construction proved itself completely waterproof in our tests, offering protection from puddles and streams, and the collar folds down to offer two stylish looks. In addition to its stand-out versatility, we love its plush comfort and warmth.

While it has plenty of uses in cold weather, the Adirondack is not as stable as other winter boots geared towards hiking due to a flexible shaft. It also feels a bit bulky due to the thick wool lining. The supple suede and leather construction should be treated with a leather seal to maintain its longevity and ensure performance season after season — though this is true for any leather shoe. Additionally, the Adirondack is the most expensive boot in the lineup. These things aside, if cozy warmth, good looks, and trail adventures are your jam, we think you'll love this chic and versatile winter boot.

Read review: UGG Adirondack III

Best Bang for the Buck


Merrell Thermo Chill Mid WP - Women's


81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 8
  • Weather Protection 7
  • Comfort and Fit 9
  • Durability 8
  • Traction 9
Shaft Height:: 6" | Insulation: 200g M Select Warm
Great value
Highly breathable
Dependable grip
Limited coverage
Hiking specific style

The Merrell Thermo Chill Mid surprised us in every category with its super versatile design that maintained warmth and breathability throughout our testing period. The cozy liner and midsole support are great for indoor and outdoor work, and the supple rubber compound on the outsole is the perfect amount of traction for trail exploration. The exterior construction manages to be durable yet lightweight, so you didn't feel like you're strapped to a 5-pound weight when trudging uphill. The best part is, this is the least expensive boot in our review.

While this is an all-around all-star design, we wish there was more ankle coverage to keep snow away from our socks, and we would welcome a slightly stiffer and taller construction to increase stability and confidence on uneven terrain. We are also a bit wary of the rubber outsole wearing down due to its softer nature, but it held up fine throughout our testing period. All in all, this boot is a major bang for your buck if you're looking for a versatile and high-performing boot that won't break the bank.

Read review: Merrell Thermo Chill Mid WP

Best for Protection


Muck Boot Arctic Ice Tall AGAT - Women's


84
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 8
  • Weather Protection 9
  • Comfort and Fit 7
  • Durability 9
  • Traction 9
Shaft Height: 17" | Insulation: Fleece and neoprene
Tallest shaft in the lineup
Completely waterproof
Highly durable
Thick, sturdy sole
Amazing traction
Heavy and bulky
Difficult to drive in
Limited versatility

The The Original Muck Boot Company Arctic Ice Tall AGAT (Arctic Grip All Terrain) is our choice for the most protective, waterproof, multi-functional winter boot we've tested. The 17-inch shaft extends to just below the knee and is built with scuba-grade neoprene and fleece to keep your legs warm and dry in the burliest of conditions. We love the rigid shaft that stands on its own, making stepping into and out of this boot quick and easy. The extra beefy sole adds additional insulation, while the firm yet pliable rubber composite underfoot sticks exceptionally well to the slipperiest of surfaces. If you need an ultra-protective boot that can tackle the coldest and wettest days of winter, this workhorse is built to do exactly that.

The boot's beefy construction makes for heavy footwear. The wide circumference of the shaft makes it easy to stuff your pant leg into the boot but leaves space for moisture to leak in when overly exposed. The cuff is also prone to chafing if you're not wearing pants that are thick enough to protect your leg (particularly for shorter folks). Those minor things aside, the Arctic Ice Tall is an excellent buy if you're seeking exceptional protection and durability in a work boot.

Read review: Muck Boot Arctic Ice Tall AGAT

Best for Winter Hiking


Keen Revel IV Polar - Women's


77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 8
  • Weather Protection 7
  • Comfort and Fit 7
  • Durability 8
  • Traction 9
Shaft Height: 7" | Insulation: 200g Recycled Keen.Warm
Very warm and breathable
Exceptional stability and support
Roomy, wider fit is great for thicker socks
Hiking-specific style
Bulky materials
Stiff

The Keen Revel IV Polar is an exceptional winter hiker. We love its warm and durable construction, breathable materials, and waterproofness. We found the Revel IV to have some of the best traction and protection on icy trails and uneven ridgelines. The boot is compatible with microspikes, gaiters, or a set of snowshoes and is comfortable enough to wear on its own all day long. Enjoy this versatile hiking boot as you splash through the rain, muck, and snow during your snowcapped adventures.

While there is not much we disliked about this boot, it has an inherently 'techy' and outdoorsy design that isn't the most fashionable option to wear with your average everyday outfit. The fit is wider in the forefoot, which is great for bulky socks but may be too wide for those with narrow feet. Regardless, if you work outdoors and winter is synonymous with outdoor adventure, this cold-weather hiking boot is highly dependable.

Read review: Keen Revel IV Polar

Best Lightweight Casual Winter Boot


The North Face Shellista IV Mid


75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 8
  • Weather Protection 7
  • Comfort and Fit 8
  • Durability 7
  • Traction 7
Shaft Height: 10" | Insulation: 200g Heatseeker Eco Pro
Great warmth-to-weight ratio
Soft and cozy
Tall for good snow protection
Breathable
Limited waterproofness
Not the best traction

This seasons' rendition of the The North Face Shellista IV Mid brought some fashionable and functional improvements to the previous Shellista design. The boot's lightweight and fuzzy construction stood out among the rest when it came to comfort and fit. We were impressed with the boot's barely-there feel and slipper-like comfort and found ourselves reaching for it when heading to work on cold mornings or for late fall drive-in movie screenings at the local theater. We also loved the 10 inches of coverage the boot provides to keep our lower legs dry when trudging through tall snowdrifts.

The Shellista has a flexible yet durable upper that resists rough conditions but lacks an overall sense of stability. This is fine for casual use but left us hanging when stomping through uneven snow or sliding along icy trails. Paired with an absence of sticky lugs, we didn't feel entirely comfortable on most slippery surfaces. But, if you're looking for an everyday boot that eliminates bulkiness while keeping you warm and dry, this is a great choice.

Read review: The North Face Shellista IV Mid

Best Sneaker-Style Boot


Danner Inquire Mid Insulated


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 8
  • Weather Protection 6
  • Comfort and Fit 9
  • Durability 7
  • Traction 7
Shaft Height: 5" | Insulation: 200g Primaloft Gold
Good weatherproofing
Warm and cozy interior
Fashionable
Versatile
Limited coverage
Stiff around the ankle

For decades, Danner has built a reputable brand known for durable, high-quality leather footwear. Just like their heritage line of trustworthy work boots, the Danner Inquire Mid Insulated stood out as a leader for functional fashion. The stiff and sturdy leather exterior is softened by the warm and fuzzy Primaloft interior, and the noticeably quality craftsmanship is apparent. We were impressed with the boot's ability to keep us dry and stable on snowy trails and even more impressed by its ability to blend in with our everyday work outfits.

While we love most of the features on the Danner Inquire Mid, we wish there was slightly more coverage to provide more ankle support for security on slippery surfaces and hiking trails. We also love the versatility but wish the boot was slightly less expensive. Other than that, we were pleased with the boot's performance in field tests and its overall ability. Look into the Inquire if you're hoping to find a single, fashionable, cross-functional boot that does it all.

Read review: Danner Inquire Mid Insulated

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
84
$190
Top Pick Award
Highly protective, this easy to use boot has impressive traction and insulation
83
$250
Editors' Choice Award
A stylish suede exterior wrapped around a cozy wool interior, this boot is designed to maintain great waterproofness, warmth, and traction
81
$110
Best Buy Award
A highly functional hiker that's warm and breathable but may not be the most versatile design for an everyday winter boot
78
$170
A burly boot with a large, bulky fit that's built for deep snow and barren winter weather but isn't as versatile
77
$180
Top Pick Award
A versatile winter hiking boot that boasts excellent traction and warmth and kept us protected in ultra-snowy conditions and uneven terrain
75
$150
Top Pick Award
Warm and comfortable, this cozy boot is surprisingly light for how protective it is when the weather turns
74
$180
Top Pick Award
A high-performance sneaker boot with a versatile style that transitions from everyday wear to low snow outdoor activities with ease
73
$150
A solid winter boot that provides enough warmth for everyday wear but isn't grippy enough for trail use
72
$240
A shorter waterproof winter boot that offers a stylish appeal, but isn't as warm as burlier and taller snow boot options
71
$135
A fashionable and lightweight boot that feels like walking on a cloud and is warm enough for milder winters
66
$140
A trendy boot made for city slicking with limited traction and waterproofness in snowier winter environments
57
$90
An affordably priced boot that is comfortable and lightweight but is of lower quality and has limited traction, stability, and insulation
54
$160
A stylish, quality boot from an up and coming brand that is sufficient for snow use but is best for urban wear

We put our boots through the ultimate waterproofness test by wading...
We put our boots through the ultimate waterproofness test by wading into subalpine rivers and lakes.
Photo: Rachel Dobronyi

Why You Should Trust Us


Liz Chamberlain, our 2021/2022 boot expert, is a winter enthusiast based in Truckee, CA. Liz is a downhill extraordinaire, seeking out the many mountain activities Lake Tahoe has to offer. Working in retail sales at Truckee's finest bike and ski shops has engineered her to take a design-focused lens when approaching gear assessment and sales. With a graduate certificate in sustainable innovation, Liz has a background in material sourcing and functional designs. You can trust her for all insights related to fashion and function. Rounding out Liz's assessments is Amber King, a Canadian native transplanted to southwestern Colorado. She works full-time as an outdoor educator, teaching students even when the cold of winter is rearing its ugly head. Together they have spent over 200 hours testing winter boots, wearing them in everything from warm spring storms to tall snowdrifts in their hometowns out West.

Related: How We Tested Winter Boots for Women

Our testing process was designed to ensure we didn't miss any crucial details. We hiked on cold winter days with temperatures well below zero and walked the dogs each day on packed snowy roads and trails. We wore the boots in this review while shoveling, going out to dinner on chilly evenings, and throughout the day during 8-hour work shifts. We even walked around in creeks and lakes to find weak points in seams and truly test for leakage and weather protection. Some of these boots gave us a whole new love of winter, while others we preferred to keep on the shelf.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Analysis and Test Results


Winter is a time to finally celebrate and immerse yourself in the cold fronts and deep dive into your favorite snowy activities. Our goal is to help you find the best boots to help you enjoy the winter season and brave the cold spells. We researched top brands and products in the women's winter boot category and then put them to the test out in the field. We assessed each boot under our testing parameters for the following five categories: warmth, weather protection, comfort and fit, durability, and traction. With testing grounds from Southwestern Colorado to British Columbia, we provide our recommendations to help you find exactly what you are looking for this season.

Related: Buying Advice for Winter Boots for Women

Despite a lackluster fit we gave the Lucie a high comfort rating.
Despite a lackluster fit we gave the Lucie a high comfort rating.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

Value


A high-performing boot doesn't have to be ultra-expensive. We took the time to test products along the entire spectrum of price ranges to find out what works best. We do not review prices until after we have tested each boot. At that point, we apply our honest opinion of value based on the price and performance of each product. When considering value, be sure to do your research and find a boot that balances the performance you need with a price you can manage.


Sitting on the lower end for price yet performing incredibly well across our tests, we agreed that the Merrell Thermal Chill Mid is definitely a high-value choice. Highly impressive traction, weatherproofing, and comfort at a reasonable price make this a no-brainer option for all-season functionality. The Sorel Winter Carnival checks all the boxes and is also a top contender for value. It is warm, comfortable, stylish, and provides solid coverage and traction. It may not be as durable or last as many seasons as the Sorel Caribou, but it's a fair price for a quality product. The North Face Shellista is also an excellent option for those that are focused on comfort and fit. The Shellista is a lightweight, warm and fuzzy boot that can serve as a one-stop-shop for your winter footwear.

We took the Thermo Chill down to the river to test waterproofness...
We took the Thermo Chill down to the river to test waterproofness. They were impressively waterproof all the way to about an inch below the collar.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

Warmth


Cold weather can be brutal. Trying to warm your feet back up after a cold day is a difficult task. For this reason, we all need a boot that will help facilitate good thermoregulation throughout the coldest days of winter. For this reason, warmth is one of the most highly weighted evaluation criteria in this review. Ideally, a winter boot should keep your foot warm whether you're simply standing around in the cold or actively hiking. A few key factors contribute to the overall warmth of a boot: the warmest options have thicker outsoles, taller shafts, and high quality insulation. Your boot should also provide excellent breathability to vent moisture while you're in motion. Another important piece of gear is a solid pair of winter socks that can insulate even when wet. Lean towards wool or synthetic fibers for the best warmth and moisture-wicking capabilities.


To objectively measure the insulation of our boots, we set each model into an ice bath and tracked how much their inside temperature dropped over 10 minutes. This helped us compare the relative amount of thermal insulation. We also hiked in each pair and stood around in snowfields and snowbanks while sipping hot chocolate on cold nights, taking note of which boots kept our feet the warmest. We even stomped around in river water. Using a culmination of the test results, we determined which boots were constructed for arctic conditions and which should probably stick to the streets.

We used a short range infrared temperature gun to measure the...
We used a short range infrared temperature gun to measure the internal temperature of the boots after a timed period packed in ice and snow. This helped us quantify the warmth retention capabilities of each one.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

Many winter boots are rated to a specific temperature. While these numbers offer a potential point of comparison, it's hard to take this estimate at face value. The warmth you experience will vary depending on the socks you wear, your metabolism, and your perception of the cold. So take these numbers with a grain of salt, but they should still be useful to figure out which boots will be warmer than others. More importantly, pay attention to the boot's construction while you try to evaluate warmth.

Our local ski resort was good grounds for testing traction and...
Our local ski resort was good grounds for testing traction and coverage after our first storm of the season.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

The warmest boots we tested offer serious insulation underfoot and well up the leg. The Muck Boot Arctic Ice Tall is a prime example. This boot is super warm with a 17-inch shaft that insulates throughout and offers superior insulation on the sole. It kept our feet warm in single digits while supplying unbeatable protection. The Sorel Caribou has the thickest sole of all our tested models and is one of the warmest boots for just standing around in the cold. It's loaded with 9mm of felt lining that doesn't seem to compact or lose warmth, even after months of wear. This was one of our favorite boots to wear when shoveling the driveway on cold mornings. However, the Arctic Ice Tall is more protective of the cold with its tall height that insulates the calf. The Caribou is about 11 inches tall, 5 inches shorter than the Arctic Ice.

The Muck Boot Arctic Ice is warm and perfect for protecting you...
The Muck Boot Arctic Ice is warm and perfect for protecting you while you blow snow on those super cold days.
Photo: Eddie Kemper

Boots with a faux fur protective collar offer more protection and warmth from the snow because they help prevent snow from falling down inside the boot shaft. However, we recognize that not everyone cares for the style, bulk, or messiness of fake fur. From our perspective, the UGG Adirondack III and The North Face Shellista had the most stylish fur collars that blended in nicely with the boot design. They also provided great warmth and insulation despite having more shallow soles compared to burlier boot designs.

The Shellista easily sheds snow with a higher moisture content, even...
The Shellista easily sheds snow with a higher moisture content, even after a full morning of shoveling and snow-blowing.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

Despite our praise for thick soles, many boots in the lineup have a thinner construction and still provide quality insulation. For example, the 10-inch shaft of the UGG Adirondack is filled with lofty, warm sheep's wool — an organic, natural fiber that offers fantastic breathability and overall warmth. The boot's sole isn't as thick as the Sorel Caribou or Muck Boot Arctic Ice but is similar in thickness to The North Face Shellista IV Mid, which earns a similar score. The Shellista has 200 grams of Heatseeker Eco Pro insulation, a high-quality synthetic insulation that offers a great warmth-to-weight ratio. Thanks to a thinner and lighter overall construction, the Shellista and Adirondack are ideal for everyday wear and are suitable for simple hiking trails or cold nights around town.

The Adirondack had the most pronounced fur collar and fur liner.
The Adirondack had the most pronounced fur collar and fur liner.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

Weather Protection


Winter can bring a fast-changing mix of snow, slush, and ice. With the proper footwear, your feet (and pants) can stay protected when you're out in near-freezing weather. To test this, we hiked through slushy puddles, tall snowbanks, rivers, and streams, all the while evaluating the materials of each boot. Those that scored the highest had the least amount of snow and water intrusion and offered the best protection in adverse environments.


We found that most weatherproof boots are constructed of rubber, neoprene, and/or leather. Look for boots with taped seams that are double stitched and reinforced to keep water out. Keep in mind that most products have a distinct flood level. This is sometimes a poorly sealed seam or the joint where the tongue meets the shaft. We tested and noted the flood level for each boot.

The Inquire Mid is truly waterproof right up to the collar, even in...
The Inquire Mid is truly waterproof right up to the collar, even in running river water.
Photo: Kati Clark

Be sure to evaluate the type of material used in the upper to determine if it is truly waterproof. Some products in this review claim their materials are waterproof when they are actually only snow-proof at best. Additionally, any product made from leather probably needs to be treated with a snow sealant at least twice per season to maintain protection.

If water and snow protection are your priority, the Muck Boot Arctic Ice Tall is a clear favorite. Whether you're blowing snow off your driveway, trudging through wet and soggy fields, or tackling tall snowbanks, this 17-inch boot is your best bet. Unlike options like the Sorel Caribou or UGG Adirondack, bad weather beasts with 9-10 inches of snow protection, the Arctic Ice does not have a faux fur collar to keep out the snow. It is, however, the tallest and burliest option out there, backing its protection with 5mm of scuba-grade neoprene and rubber. It's our favorite because it's easy to slip on, it's warm, and its flood level extends to the top of the boot thanks to no seams or laces.

We grabbed the Arctic Ice when there was super deep snow to trudge...
We grabbed the Arctic Ice when there was super deep snow to trudge through. It is truly the perfect shoveling boot.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

The Sorel Caribou has features a removable liner and beefy insulation to keep your toes toasty in cold weather. The Caribou's overlays ensure that it's waterproof nearly all the way to the boot's collar, at about 10 inches. In comparison, the Bogs Crandall II Tall delivers only 3mm of waterproof insulation with a shaft height of 13". While the Crandall II was not a top pick, it is a great option for those looking for a rainboot design that offers the waterproofing capabilities of a snow boot.

Deep snow would pile up on the collar of the Caribou but almost...
Deep snow would pile up on the collar of the Caribou but almost never seemed to get inside of the boot.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

If you're searching for a highly weatherproof winter hiking boot, the Merrell Thermal Chill Mid and Keen Revel IV Polar both offer bomber weather protection. The Thermal Chill Mid can soak in the river for minutes without letting water in. The Revel IV features leather overlays on the collar with a breathable waterproof membrane and deep tread on the sole. We were pleasantly surprised by the weatherproofing on both of these hikers. Unfortunately, both models are roughly ankle height, so the maximum coverage is only about 5" before your sock or pants become exposed to the elements.

The Shellista IV Mid kept everything from the lower calf to the foot...
The Shellista IV Mid kept everything from the lower calf to the foot roasty toasty on early morning shoveling missions.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

The UGG Adirondack III is another all-around killer winter boot that is made entirely from leather and rubber and offers amazing protection from both water and snow. It protects the feet from up to 9 inches of snow, and while it may not be as tall as some, it checks all the boxes in regards to weatherproofing, comfort, and traction.

If your winters are cold and wet but not deep, we highly recommend the Sorel Explorer II Joan or the Blundstone Thermal. The Explorer II Joan is surprisingly warm and offers protection up to 7.5 inches on sloppy wet days, while the Blundstone Thermal covers about 6 inches or to the top of the ankle. This might not be high enough for everyone, but it will handle slushy curb puddles like a champ. These are stylish and very comfortable options for tackling nasty urban weather.

We took the Blundstone Thermal&#039;s out for a trial run through our...
We took the Blundstone Thermal's out for a trial run through our local trails, rivers, and streets.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

Comfort and Fit


Those who live and play in the burliest winter conditions know that warmth and comfort are of the utmost importance for winter wear. For those of us that spend our winters shoveling or working in wet, snowy, muddy conditions, comfort and fit are a top priority.


While we believe comfort and fit go hand in hand, they aren't synonymous. We examined each boot's liner, footbed, and weight to evaluate comfort and judged how cozy the interior materials are to wear all day. To judge fit, we made a side-by-side comparison to assess the size, shape, and width of the toe box, heel pocket, and footbed. We took notes as we felt out which boots were "true to size" and which boots sat bigger or smaller on the sizing spectrum. Lastly, we considered the stability and support of each boot to offer insights into which boot would be best worn under certain circumstances (i.e., work, fashion, outdoor activities, etc.).

Not only do the UGG Adirondack III&#039;s protect during winter hikes and...
Not only do the UGG Adirondack III's protect during winter hikes and explorations, but the super cozy sheepskin liner is great for lounging around...even at high altitude.
Photo: Amber King

The most comfortable options were light, flexible, and soft with a sturdy, protective fit. The boots with plush liners and solid insulation also rose above in the comfort category. Overall, if you're seeking the perfect balance between fit and comfort, the North Face Shellista IV Mid, Danner Inquire Mid, and Blundstone Thermal are some of your best bets. The next-to-sock fit and curved footbeds provide a better sense of support, stability, and movement. These designs use textiles and top grain leathers that offer an ideal balance between stiffness and flexibility to help facilitate both comfort and stability. The plush footbed in the Blundstones also made us feel like we were walking on a cloud.

A look at the super warm and cozy removable liner in the Blundstone...
A look at the super warm and cozy removable liner in the Blundstone Thermal. Pro-tip: in the summer replace it for a less insulated insole and you've got a warm-weather boot too!
Photo: Amber King

The Danner Inquire Mid is a modest and versatile option that offers a comfortable and snug fit right out of the box. The Inquire could serve as an everyday work shoe or a simplistic low-top hiking boot. While it provides less coverage and traction than some of the other models, it is a stand-out in all-around style, comfort, and fit. The UGG Adirondack III is built with super soft wool insulation right in the liner and is also incredibly comfortable. However, while the wool is super soft and plush, the footbed doesn't offer as much support as the Danner Inquire Mid.

The Inquire Mid is a comfortable and reliable option for all types...
The Inquire Mid is a comfortable and reliable option for all types of surfaces and weather conditions.
Photo: Kati Clark

Weight was also a bigger factor than we anticipated in our testing process. Some boots weigh significantly more than others, and this became evident when hiking or wearing boots during 8-hour work shifts. Some had bulkier builds with a far better warmth-to-weight ratio, like The North Face Shellista IV Mid. The heavier boots, not surprisingly, provided greater traction, while the lighter boots were generally not quite as warm and did not perform as well in snowy conditions.

The Shellista&#039;s updated look is a bit more fashionable and friendly...
The Shellista's updated look is a bit more fashionable and friendly than past models. The lighter leather and paneled upper is trendy and capable of everyday wear.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

Regarding weight, the Sorel Explorer II Joan, Danner Inquire Mid, and Merrell Thermo Chill Mid were the lightest options in our lineup. This can be an important aspect of comfort if you're on your feet and moving around for many hours at a time.

The Explorer II Joan isn&#039;t the warmest or burliest boot we tested by...
The Explorer II Joan isn't the warmest or burliest boot we tested by a long shot, but it is very light, stylish, comfortable, and great for shoulder-season outings and calmer days in between storms.
Photo: Kati Clark

While we appreciated the soft and fuzzy liners, these weren't the only boots that we found comfortable. Arch support and toe box space are a big part of the fit evaluation. Fit is, therefore, a subjective metric, so we make sure to explain the particulars of the curve and contour of each boot shape throughout each review.

This Kinetic fit base footbed from Merrell was one of the only...
This Kinetic fit base footbed from Merrell was one of the only footbeds with air vent holes to increase breathability.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

Durability


Long-time winter veterans know the value of a boot that lasts many seasons without replacement. When we assess durability, we look at the quality of materials used and how the boot is constructed and then analyze how those materials hold up under light, medium, and heavy use in winter conditions.


Neoprene, leather, suede, nylon, and mesh are the most frequently used textiles in this footwear category. We compare each textile to one another to evaluate a product's lifetime. For example, rubber and neoprene can withstand extended exposure to wet conditions, suede and leather wear more quickly in wet environments.

The protective outer and warm wool liner of the Adirondack offers...
The protective outer and warm wool liner of the Adirondack offers fantastic performance through slush and water.
Photo: Amber King

To test durability, we left our test boots out in the snow for multiple hours at a time, soaked them in the local river, and soaked them in ice baths. We used before and after photo evidence to capture fading, curling of the tongue or upper collar, and ripping or fraying of laces and seams. We tested outsole durability by actively rubbing and scrubbing boot soles on the pavement. We even kicked rocks and took them over rough terrain that would challenge the stiffness and durability of each sole. We checked for evidence of rounding of the lugs and scuffing of the outer edge of the sole.

We exposed the boots to precipitation as much as possible to...
We exposed the boots to precipitation as much as possible to simulate long periods of winter use. This ultimately revealed signs of lower-quality materials and imperfect constructions.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

Leather and suede are two of the most frequently used winter boot materials that are known to have the longest lifespans if cared for properly. These textiles require care and maintenance throughout the season as they are particularly prone to scuffing, weathering, and fading. Hence, cleaning and conditioning treatments are a great way to keep your boots looking fresh. Waterproofing treatments are also a great idea if you plan to use your leather boots as everyday winter wear for multiple seasons. Brands like Blundstone and Danner sell their own waterproofing treatments; otherwise, you can find a variety of treatments through aftermarket brands like NikWax.

The Muck Boot Arctic Tall is the most indestructible boot we tested...
The Muck Boot Arctic Tall is the most indestructible boot we tested, with 6mm of practically impenetrable neoprene.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

We evaluated the strength and buoyancy of laces and eyelets to determine if they could undergo long-term use in heavy snow conditions. We rubbed up on trees and rocks to see how scuffed a boot's outsole and upper could get. We also assessed each boot's durability based on the stiffness of the shaft. Most boots have thick stitching that runs from the heel to the collar of the boot, often with a stitched-in loop to help pull the boot on. The stiffer the shaft, the more likely the boot will maintain structure over time.

The Revel IV has a sturdy rubber toe and heel patch to protect the...
The Revel IV has a sturdy rubber toe and heel patch to protect the feet from kicking rocks or sliding into objects. The extra rubber around the midsole also provides more insulation and water protection.
Photo: Rachel Dobronyi

Of the test group, we found the Muck Boot Arctic Ice Tall, Keen Revel IV Polar, and Sorel Caribou to be the top-performing boots in terms of durability. The strength of these boots is predominantly characterized by tough rubber outsoles and thick uppers that provide insulation and great protection from the elements. We took these boots on walks over long rocky beaches and through riverbeds and kept them on for fall wood-splitting sessions. Even after months of testing, we feel that these boots are nearly indestructible.

The Caribou has one of the stiffest shafts in our lineup which...
The Caribou has one of the stiffest shafts in our lineup which easily supports the boot's heavy materials and keeps a sturdy structure around the upper.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

Traction


A bomber outsole is key if you want to stay on your feet through winter. The last thing you want is to slip on ice or down a slope, so we tested each boot for its ability to keep you on your feet through inclement weather. We studied each model's outsole by measuring the depth of the lugs and assessing the tread pattern. We skated around on ice patches, hiked on trails near town, and got out on the hills of our favorite ski resorts. We even used a natural ice ramp at the end of our neighborhood cul de sac to test traction going uphill and downhill. In the end, we learned that those with the largest lugs and surface area did best on technical terrain and inclines, while flatter soles and wave patterns work best on the street or in wet conditions (rain or puddles).


Rubber compounds are a huge part of the traction and functionality equation. Over centuries, engineers have fine-tuned rubber compounds to optimize grip, durability, and performance at different temperatures. Like most of the earth's compounds, rubber acts differently under varying temperatures and climates. While Vibram's Arctic Grip, for example, may be great in sub-zero temperatures, it may not act the same in milder spring temperatures. We did our best to test each boot and determine its best arena for use.

Above are the two different sole patterns we saw in the winter...
Above are the two different sole patterns we saw in the winter boots. About 50% had external lugs while the other 50% had some type of wave pattern.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

While all the boots tested provide some level of traction, some are better than others. If you plan on being out in deep snow throughout the winter, a sole with a lot of surface area is your best option, like the Sorel Caribou or Muck Boot Arctic Ice Tall. The rubber compound on the Arctic Ice is stiffer, while the Caribou is more soft and supple. This means the Arctic Ice is less reliable on icy inclines, while the Caribou is better at grasping icy inclines because the lugs can better stick to the ground.

The lugs on the hiking-focused winter boots are quite similar in the...
The lugs on the hiking-focused winter boots are quite similar in the heel and underfoot design to provide solid heel to toe traction.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

For hiking-focused boots, the Keen Revel IV Polar and Merrell Thermo Chill Mid have exceptional traction on snow and didn't seem to get sticky on warm pavement. They also have a nice snug fit around the heel pocket, which is key to avoiding blisters and lack of grip. If you plan to get on steep trails this winter, we highly recommend either of these boots. A hiking boot design for active winter use will have great traction, weatherproofing, and durability.

Hiking steep trails? No problem! The Keen Revel IV Polar will stick...
Hiking steep trails? No problem! The Keen Revel IV Polar will stick and hold well to most wintery surfaces.
Photo: Amber King

The Sorel Caribou and Muck Boot Arctic Ice Tall have some of the deepest lugs in the group. While the UGG Adirondack II, Merrell Thermo Chill Mid, and Danner Inquire Mid have shallower lugs, they also provided great traction on snowy hikes.

The unique 1/2 inch rounded lugs on the Caribou outsole are enhanced...
The unique 1/2 inch rounded lugs on the Caribou outsole are enhanced by thicker lugs around the edges to maintain grip on uneven surfaces.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

The wavy sole patterns on the Sorel Explorer II Joan, Sorel Winter Carnival, and Blundstone Thermal proved to have unreliable traction on uneven snowy surfaces but maintained solid grip for everyday errands and activities. These would be best for warm indoor workwear, casual streetwear, or everyday winter comfort.

The wave pattern was not exactly confidence inspiring in deep or...
The wave pattern was not exactly confidence inspiring in deep or uneven snow trenches. We felt a little uneasy when going up and down slope.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

A Note on Winter Hiking Boots


The fit of an active winter hiking boot is important for those who want to take on the winter's iciest trails. Hiking boots often have a more snug and shapely design with a low collar to offer both stability and security with a comfortable range of motion. Everything from the outsole to the laces are chosen and constructed with active use on varying terrain in mind.

Our testers with wide or high-volume feet, or those looking for more wiggle room, opted for the Keen Revel IV Polar, which has more space in the forefoot and below the arch. If you're looking for the best arch support, the Danner Inquire Mid has you covered. Those with narrow feet will prefer the Merrell Thermo Chill Mid. Each one of these options offered superb traction on inclines, with slightly different levels of ankle coverage depending on the shaft height. If you opt for a comfort-focused snow boot that has good traction, like the Sorel Caribou or the UGG Adirondack, you may find that the fit around the foot is a bit looser which can cause discomfort over 5+ miles of hiking.

The lugs of the Merrell weren&#039;t quite as thick as the Keen Revel IV...
The lugs of the Merrell weren't quite as thick as the Keen Revel IV, which helped the outsole to shed sticky mud.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

Conclusion


A high-performing winter boot can keep you warm and protected from whatever the weather may bring. Be sure the boot you settle on is warm, breathable, and offers decent traction and weather protection to get you through the burliest days of winter. While there are many choices on the market, we chose the top players from some of the most renowned brands in the footwear industry. We've assessed the industry's tried and true products and determined the value of each design in our lineup. We've done the hard work, so you don't have to. Enjoy!

Liz Chamberlain and Amber King

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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

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